When up-and-coming lawyer Barack Obama met Michelle Robinson, he was blown away. She, on the other hand, resisted his offer of a date, but he never gave up trying to win her over. Here, CHRISTOPHER ANDERSEN reveals the intimate details of how the future US president wooed his First Lady and why she fell under his spell.
Barack Obama?” Michelle asked, one hand planted firmly on her hip. “What the hell kind of name is Barack Obama, anyway? Who names their kid Barack Obama?” It wasn't the first time she had listened to a colleague at [law firm] Sidley Austin rave about the gifted, handsome, suavely urbane Harvard first-year law student who was coming to work there as a summer associate.
Newton Minow, a senior partner at Sidley Austin, had been instrumental in spreading word of Barack’s imminent arrival, going so far as to praise his letter of introduction to the firm as poetic. Soon the firm’s rank and file were buzzing about his towering intellect, his exotic background and his equally exotic good looks.
In a less than subtle manoeuvre to bring together two of the relative handful of black lawyers in the 500-lawyer Chicago office, Michelle was assigned to be the new arrival’s mentor. She was not amused. She had already pledged to her mother just a week earlier that she was “not worrying about dating. I’m focusing on me”. Besides, Michelle insisted, she really didn’t have time “to babysit some guy”. As for the breathless comments from her co-workers, Michelle reacted with characteristic scepticism. “I figured,” she later said, “they were just impressed with any black man who has a suit and a job.”
After all, it wasn’t as if Michelle hadn’t been down this road before. Barack, she said, “sounded too good to be true. I had dated a lot of brothers who had this kind of reputation coming in, so I figured he was one of those smooth brothers who could talk straight and impress people.”
Before he arrived, Michelle pulled out Barack’s bio. “I”ve got nothing in common with this guy,” she thought as she read it. “He grew up in Hawaii! I’ve never even met somebody who grew up in Hawaii. He’s biracial. Okay, so what’s that about? Hmmm. This guy’s going to be a little strange, a little weird, a little off-putting.” She had managed to create in her mind “an image of this intellectual nerd”.
Extracted from Barack and Michelle: The Love Story by Christopher Andersen, rrp $35.
Read the rest of this extract in the April issue of The Australian Women's Weekly out now with The Obama's on the cover.
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